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Thread: Strange tone on my A Course

  1. #1

    Default Strange tone on my A Course

    My A course sounds really strange all of the sudden. Both strings are tuned to A, but that course and only that course has this really strange reverb-like resonance to it. Everything physically seems to be in order. Has anyone seen anything like this? Happened totally out of the blue today when I got home. Help!

  2. #2

    Default Re: Strange tone on my A Course

    FYI, it just went away on its own, very weird, maybe something resonating on the tailpiece or something?

  3. #3
    Registered User sblock's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Redwood City, CA

    Default Re: Strange tone on my A Course


  4. #4

    Default Re: Strange tone on my A Course

    It's most likely a very slight buzz against one of the frets. Happens often to me as the seasons (temperature/humidity) change.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Strange tone on my A Course

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  7. #6
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
    Nashville, TN

    Default Re: Strange tone on my A Course

    I have had similar eerie experiences a few times. There are several possible sources :

    1) String vibration above the nut (solved by using a leather dampener strip).

    2) String vibration between the bridge and tailpiece. Pluck the strings below the bridge; if any happen to be pitched at "A", they will resonate when you play your A strings. (Solved by using a leather dampener strip).

    3) Vibration of the tailpiece cover, or the strings against the tailpiece cover.
    Even if there is a felt strip glued to the underside of the cover, the tip of the cover often touches the strings. Arm contact with tailpiece can make this noise come and go. (Also solved by using a leather dampener, or making sure the cover is on firmly).

    4) Gunky A-string nut slots (solved by cleaning and lightly burnishing the slots).

    5) Nut slots that have worn too low; this causes a buzz at the first fret, and would not solve itself magically.

    6) A last possibility I've encountered is a piece of loose hardware that is vibrating and creating a mystery tone. Two examples I've seen are a loose bridge thumbscrew (because my bridge was adjusted all the way down), which actually sang out a little high-pitched whine, and a loose bit (collet or peg) on a tuner, which was more of a buzz.

    Notice that dampening the strings above the nut and below the bridge, and checking the tailpiece cover, eliminate a lot of eerie noises. The fact that yours came and went suggests it is string or tailpiece resonance. Fret buzz could be the cause, but often those noises (buzzing, or a sour, muted tone) are different from the "mysterious tones". Another clue is whether you get the noise only with the open string (A pitch), or with fretted notes on the same course.
    Last edited by acousticphd; Sep-30-2016 at 10:44am. Reason: addition
    Jeff Rohrbough
    "Listen louder, play softer"

  8. #7
    Registered User Nick Gellie's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Orgiva, Spain

    Default Re: Strange tone on my A Course

    I had a similar problem the other day on my Collings MT, except on the D strings. I deduced that it was coming from the nut or bridge slots not being the right shape and size for the strings. It requires a careful assessment to see if the slots are a bit large for the strings. Get the mandolin setup book available on the cafe and it will best advise how to tackle the problem.
    Nic Gellie

    Collings MT 2012 mandolin signed by Bill Collings
    Collings MT-O 2019 mandolin
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  9. #8
    The Amateur Mandolinist Mark Gunter's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Palmer, Texas

    Default Re: Strange tone on my A Course

    I had that problem, also with the A course, on an Ibanez which was my first F-style cheapo mandolin . . . unfortunately, I was never able to cure it. I removed tailpiece cover, removed pick guard hardware, dampened strings below bridge with leather strip, worked on nut slots . . . no dice, and it drove me nuts for awhile. This occurred up the fret as well, I know it was not due to fret buzz. I never tried damping strings above the nut, and I never did a thorough check of the tuning hardware, maybe that was it?

    Sometimes it would sound OK, and sometimes it was terrible. Hope you get to the bottom of your problem.
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  10. #9

    Default Re: Strange tone on my A Course

    Thanks guys, hasn't come back, must have been some light incidental contact with something

  11. #10
    Join Date
    Sep 2002

    Default Re: Strange tone on my A Course

    I have this same problem right now on one mandolin that I have on the bench, I believe it is the slots on the nut not being the same depth, I capoed it on the first fret and then tuned it up and it didn`t have the sound anymore, I have tried reslotting the nut but it still sounded the same so what I do now is tune it by holding the A string down on the fifth fret and tune both strings so they note the same and that make is playable, still not perfect on all frets but close enough so that others don`t hear it, but I do and I know it isn`t perfect but I will get `er fixed thats for sure...

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